In this post, I will discuss the four basics of Centered Riding and how I use them in riding. This is just an introduction to the basics and is best explained and taught in person. I teach these four basics to my students as “non-negotiables.” They must learn to constantly check in with themselves and scan their body, being sure they are always using the four basics to stay balanced and following on the horse’s back.
Soft Eyes In riding, sometimes we find ourselves with ‘tunnel vision.’ We are so focused during the ride, that sometimes we end up staring at the horse’s ears and nothing else. To have soft eyes is to relax your vision so that you can see everything around you, within the range of your peripheral vision. When you are riding your horse, try focusing on just his ears for several strides. Notice what this does to your position. You may feel your jaw stiffen up, consequently leading to a stiffer neck and less following body. Now, adjust your vision so that you can see everything in your field of vision: the walls of the arena, the landscape around you, the cars in the driveway. Notice the effect his has on your body and position. You will notice you have more awareness of yourself and your surroundings and you will have a better feel of where your body is on the horse.
Breathing To breathe correctly means to breathe with your whole body, not just with your chest. Think of using your entire belly on the inhale and exhale, not just your lungs. As you breathe out, think of exhaling all of the oxygen out of your body. Take many deep breaths as you focus on your breathing. Notice that you feel closer to the horse the deeper and more controlled your breaths are. Steady breathing from you will calm a nervous horse.
Building Blocks If you think of our position on the horse in terms of building blocks, it will be easier to envision an upright position without leaning to one side or the other, forward or back. Think in terms of children’s wooden building blocks. Below is a diagram from Sally Swift’s Centered Riding. On the left, we see how the building blocks are stacked on top of one another from a side view. Imagine what this also looks like from the front view. One of the blocks cannot lean to one side, or else the whole stack will topple over.
What is your center of gravity? It is your center of balance and movement, where all of your body control comes from. To find where your center of gravity is, put your palm on your lower stomach as follows : Put your thumb on your belly button and your pink on the top of your pubic bone. About halfway between your thumb and your pinky is your center of gravity, located deep within the body. When you are practicing your breathing, you will think about breathing into your center of gravity. When your actions stem from your center of gravity, you will be more secure on the horse and better able to influence his movement. Your center can be shown to you by a Centered Riding instructor.
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